Attendees spoke to one another at their tables, following a list of questions to guide discussion. (photo from Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan)
A small group of Jews and Christians gathered at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on April 4.
After the first bomb threat at the JCC, Richard Topping, principal of Vancouver School of Theology, reached out to the Jewish community. He approached Laura Duhan Kaplan, director of Inter-Religious Studies at VST and rabbi emerita of Congregation Or Shalom. Yael Levin of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and JCCGV executive director Eldad Goldfarb then organized the dialogue, at which members of the United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches were present.
The evening opened with the singing of an egalitarian version of “Hinei Mah Tov” – “How good it is when brothers dwell together as one,” with achim, brothers, changed to kulanu, everyone. Topping then took the podium.
“When the first bomb threat was made at the JCC,” he said, “people at VST began asking is there anything we can do to show our solidarity with the Jewish community? We understand that a hoax like this is scary and it makes our friends feel vulnerable. In a post-Holocaust world, we don’t want to wait and see how a threat turns out. We want to assure you that we stand in solidarity with you against antisemitism. We are here to assure you that we stand with you against violence and against threats of violence.”
Sharon Dweck, development director of the JCCGV, gave an overview of the JCCGV’s activities within the Jewish community and beyond. She then shared her recollections of the first threat. “I broke my rule about keeping my nose out of daycare and rushed to hug my child,” she said. “Days after, as ‘manager on call’ after the bomb threat, I felt afraid and vulnerable, as well as a great sense of responsibility. ‘Would another threat come on my watch?’”
In total, the JCC received two threats, both of which were hoaxes.
Attendees spoke to one another at their tables, following a list of questions to guide discussion. People talked about everything from the importance of tikkun olam to Jewish humour, people they knew in common, their Jewish or Christian upbringings, and concerns over the then-upcoming vote to support the boycott, divest from and sanction Israel movement at the University of British Columbia, which was defeated.
Matthew Gindin is a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He writes regularly for the Forward and All That Is Interesting, and has been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Tikkun and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.